Paint an accent wall without painter's tape

How to Paint Without Painter’s Tape

The first house we toured in our neighborhood while house shopping had a navy accent wall in the guest room. When we bought our house, a navy accent wall was the first painting related decision I made. Later I decided I wanted a green accent wall in our living room behind the couch. With accent walls in my plans, I needed to learn how to paint neatly without wonky lines. But I dreaded the thought of taping everything. So I learned how paint without painter’s tape!

I did not use painter’s tape for anything I painted in our house. I’ve painted two of our 3 floors, including the stairwell between them, and 3 accent walls. [Basement, you’re next!] Pulling back painter’s tape to find paint bleed terrified me. Painting is hard work, and having to redo it when you think your done is not something I wanted to experience. Not to mention, taping everything is incredibly time consuming. I knew I didn’t have the patience to do that.

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Plan of Attack

In each room I followed this plan of attack once each room was ready to paint.

  1. Paint trim
  2. Cut in & roll ceiling
  3. Paint walls
  4. Paint any accent walls

1 & 2: Trim & Ceiling Painting

The left and right walls haven’t been painted yet. Ceiling and trim paint overlap onto the walls.

In every room I painted the ceiling and trim first, that way if I messed up and got paint on the walls, my mistakes would be painted over when I painted the walls. Any obvious drips or globs I wiped up to avoid having any texture the drips made show through the wall paint. I made sure there was an overlap of trim paint onto the wall, and the same with ceiling paint. This ensured when I painted with new wall paint, that none of the old wall color would show through at the edges.

I painted the trim solely with an angled sash brush getting paint straight out of the can. The more trim I painted, the better I got at my precision with a brush. A little practice and patience, and you’ll have skills! Sarah from the Ugly Duckling House has a nice tutorial on this. Also painting trim doesn’t seem like physically demanding work, but it’s a lot of sitting and leaning to get a good angle. I was sore after. But only on one side. Take breaks and stretch a lot.

Upstairs we have carpet, which can be a pain to paint trim around because the fibers stick up onto the trim. I wedged cardboard under the trim to press the carpet down. But full disclosure: I didn’t care about getting paint on our carpet because it was getting replaced a few weeks after I painted. (If you’re interested in that, read about our experiences with Empire.) You can use cardboard or a putty knife to help you wedge plastic under your trim. That will protect your carpet and help keep fibers from getting in your wet paint.

living room while painting
Watching Diners, Drive Ins, & Dives makes painting more enjoyable. It also makes you hungry.

On our main floor we have hardwood. By that point, I had practiced painting enough that I had control over the brush and could paint trim without painting the quarter round. Of course there were a few mistakes here and there. A wet paper towel is good for wiping up those mistakes. Just get the paint while it’s still wet.

For the ceilings, I cut in with a sash brush, making sure to get ceiling paint on the walls too. My fiance did the majority of the rolling. This paint can lid is very helpful for pouring paint into a roller tray. Working as a team made things much faster. And I didn’t have the shoulder strength to roll over my head.

3: Walls

Walls are by far the most satisfying part of painting for me, but they can also be the most nerve wracking. There’s an instant gratification of the color you’ve chosen coming to life. But the bolder the color, the more obvious mistakes and wonky lines will be. That’s where a paint edger comes in handy. I used an edger for the top and bottom of every wall. The paint edger is your secret weapon to paint without painter’s tape.

I used my trusty sash brush to brush paint onto the edger. I watched a video online about dabbing the edger into the paint and forcing excess off like you would a roller. That caused paint to end up on the wheels and build up along the edges and this did not give me crisp lines. I experimented with how much paint to brush on, starting with less paint and working my way up. If you have too much paint on the edger pad it will squish out and leave globs. It’s better to have too little paint on the edger than to have too much.

We’ll get to accent walls in a minute. But these show using the edger to outline a space before rolling it.

After outlining a section with the edger at the top, I rolled paint from top to bottom. As I neared the bottom, I used the edger along the trim. The texture of the edger pad is different than the texture the roller. Sometimes the edger didn’t achieve the coverage I wanted and left things streaky. For both problems I used the brush to even things out. Painting over the edger work with the brush was still easier and more efficient than cutting in by hand. And it gave me crisp lines.

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4: Accent Wall Considerations

I painted accent walls very much the same as all the other walls, with a few minor changes. Not only did I use the edger on the top and bottom of accent walls, but on the sides as well. I made sure when I painted the rest of the walls, that I overlapped some of the main color on what would be the accent wall. That way when I painted with the accent paint, there wouldn’t be any gaps of the original wall color showing through. You could overlap the accent color onto other walls, but for me my accent colors were darker and would be harder to cover with the main paint color.

But which paint to use?

All of the paint we bought was Sherwin Williams SuperPaint. We bought all of our paint when it was on a 40% off sale. They run sales on occasion and that’s a great time to stock up!

Not all of the colors we chose are Sherwin Williams colors though. You can have any brand paint color made up at any paint store you’d like. It took me 3 trips to the paint store and a few sample cans before I decided upon the light gray that is the majority of our house. I’ve linked them below in case there was anything that caught your eye.

What do you want to paint without painter’s tape?


  • Kaleigh

    I’m incredibly impressed you didn’t have any drop cloths down. I feel like we got so much paint everywhere when we did our bedroom. But then it’s easier to clean off wood than carpet. I’m eager to paint our basement now and thinking how awesome it would be to not have to use all that blue painters tape.

    • periodicallycreative

      It helped that I got to practice over carpet that we knew we were replacing in a few weeks! After that just being slow and steady kept everything clean.

  • Sarah

    You did an excellent job, the final results turned out wonderful! I’m getting my new home painted by a residential painter in two weeks because I can’t do it myself with my old back! My daughter recently bought a home and has been struggling with the new home repairs and painting the walls and ceiling. I’m going to pass this blog onto her for some help!

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